Retire to Rio Hato, Panama

The Cheapest Place To Retire In Panama?

Panama City is no longer a cheap place to live. Life in Panama’s capital city can be affordable (depending on your interpretation of that idea), but it’s no great bargain. Rents are down from the 2008-2009 highs, but, realistically, you’re still looking at US$1,000 a month for a comfortable place in a good location. Other costs, from groceries to household help and from restaurants to movie tickets, have risen steadily during the three-and-a-half years we’ve been living here to the point that, again, today, cheap is no longer a word I’d use to describe them.

However, as I point out often, Panama City isn’t Panama, and Panama beyond its capital can still be a super-bargain destination.

Panama Editor Chris Powers features one of the country’s most affordable locations in this month’s issue of my Panama Letter: Rio Hato.

Rio Hato is both a region and a town. The region includes one of the most expensive lifestyle options in all Panama, Buenaventura. This private, gated community on the ocean is five-star by anyone’s standards. The property includes the Bristol Buenaventura Hotel (my favorite in Panama), a private clubhouse, and clusters of red tile-roofed “villas” separated by gardens, walkways, tennis courts, water features, and swimming pools. You’d look hard to find a nicer private ocean-side residential community anywhere in the world.

Buenaventura’s existence in Rio Hato highlights the contrasts and contradictions you find all over this country. It is arguably the nicest place to live in all Panama. It’s also the most expensive. Yet it sits just down the road from little, unassuming Rio Hato town…one of Panama’s most back-to-basics and affordable lifestyle options.

Chris’ budget for Rio Hato, detailed in this month’s issue of the Panama Letter (in subscribers’ e-mailboxes later this week), totals US$1,320 including US$200 for full-time household help and US$120 a month for travel (meant to cover the costs of regular trips to Panama City or Santiago). Not everybody needs (or wants) full-time household help, and you wouldn’t have to travel to Panama City every month if you didn’t want to…meaning that, in fact, a couple could retire to this friendly, safe, welcoming, and charming area on a monthly budget of less than US$1,100.

One reason the cost of living in Rio Hato town is so affordable is that the cost of renting here is a steal. Chris reports you could rent a small but comfortable house for as little as US$250 per month.

Rio Hato town is not on the water, but the coast isn’t far away. In other words, for a total cost of US$1,000 to US$1,200 per month, you could enjoy a relaxed retirement in a community where you’d be welcomed, where you could easily make friends (you’d need to speak some Spanish), and where you’d be but minutes from the Pacific Ocean.

Many locals live off the land. Fishing, farming, and shrimping are the big industries here, and opportunities exist for agricultural entrepreneurs.

Chris has the details in his complete report, in the final stages of production now.

Kathleen Peddicord

Retire Overseas Conference Banner